Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finding inspiration in the past

As I set my sights ahead on my new adventure as a Technology Integration Specialist, I can't help but look back on the past (partly because I'm remembering where I came from and adjusting for where I'm going, and partly because I'm cleaning through and trying to organize everything).  It's from this purging that I stumbled upon something I wrote during the summer a few years ago.  My principal, at the time, gave us homework that summer.  We were asked to write about our biggest success story from that year, and while I knew I was making a difference, I really had to ponder the assignment.  I haven't blogged in a while, and it might be cheating a little, but I thought I'd share my old assignment.  Here's what I discovered:

Choosing my success story was not an easy task, not because I don’t feel I make a difference in the lives of my students, but because I see them in such a different capacity than a “regular classroom teacher.” Throughout the course of a week, I have about 600 students pass through my doors, and throughout the course of a year, I’m lucky if I see each of those students 36 times. The opportunity to bond and connect is different from the traditional classroom. Of course, sharing in music allows for a natural bond that bridges some of the gaps created by our lack of time together. Still, it’s hard to quantify success in the music room, and although I know the research and believe in the importance of instilling a love and appreciation of music in our students, I sometimes fall into the trap of feeling that I am just a teacher’s conference period. What can I do to change a child’s life? Apparently, a lot.

Thinking over the course of the year, one student kept popping into my head. The story I’ve decided to share isn’t about a troublemaker in my classroom.  Her grades outside my room were usually pretty good. She was always attentive, and tried to do her best whenever I saw her. She was also in choir. She would come before AND after school. Although she was never “bad,” so to speak, when we would sing, she always seemed to have an exorbitant amount of energy (especially after school). She literally could not sit or stand still. She would hop and wiggle and move, even if we were just doing warm-ups or singing a ballad. She also liked to try and sneak up behind me when I was writing things on the board and “conduct” the group. Cute at first, but I’ll admit I sometimes got annoyed. I wanted the kids to be happy and excited, but this student was sometimes pushing my limits. I always attributed her excessive energy to the fact that the students had been in school all day, and this was just her way of releasing. I discovered the true necessity of choir to this student on her last day in my class. Unfortunately, by then, I couldn’t do anything to capitalize on my new enlightenment.

After choir one day, she came up to me and told me she would no longer be able to come to choir. I was surprised at first; I didn’t think she was being pulled for tutorial, and she was always one of the most excited students in my room. When I asked her why, she told me that CPS was coming to pick her sister and her up the next week and she would no longer be at Heritage. To think of her as an individual, I would have never guessed. I realized that in my room, this student was able to feel safe. When she said, “I love choir,” it wasn’t the same as when a little girl says, “I love pink.” She truly felt like my class was a haven. I provided her a place where she could be herself. She taught me a big lesson that day, but then again, isn’t it those success stories that normally teach us most.

I often times wondered if there was a reason for keeping choir going, especially as the year lagged on and more and more of my students were pulled for tutorial or baseball or whatever else. “Perhaps I’d be better off helping with tutorial or just going home at the end of the day,” I’d sometimes think. Until I realized the choir was so much more than just a group of kids singing. Music was (and is) my outlet, as it is for so many others. Although it’s not directly academic, music fulfills a need, one that will still be there long after the 3 “Rs” are gone. When I stop to think about the 5 most influential teachers in my education, at least 3 of them were music teachers. So why wouldn’t I make a difference? Sometimes it takes a special student to remind us just how important we are.

1 comment:

  1. Music is a haven for so many people - throughout their lives. The people who foster that haven are very special! Thanks for sharing! - Bev Barnett, singer, songwriter and marketing consultant for Doceri